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Posts Tagged ‘Empathy’

We live in an intensive time, don’t we? Many of us are confronted with loved ones whose perspective is remarkably different from our own – and both sides often feel quite desperate and overwhelmed.

So I’m thinking it’s time for me to come back to the basics, and maybe this is true for you too. I frequently come back to the basics when my relationships seem challenging or harder than I think they need to be. So, please join me in NVC Basic 101…


What’s the weather like where you are? It is pouring full-on outside my window and has been for two days. I’m bundled up in a long-sleeve t-shirt covered by a heavy plaid flannel shirt, heavy pants, and big fluffy socks… and I’m shivering as I type this.

I love weather like this! It calls me to hunker down, stay close to home, snuggle more, and tend to my inner, emotional weather. Hmmm. Giving myself a chance to check in with myself, I remember that – besides loving the rain – my heart is heavy with sadness.


For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about and supporting others in taking steps towards healing the seemingly uncomfortable divide between our families, communities, and countries. It can seem so hard to even open a conversation about our political differences, let alone locate common ground we can agree on.

I have people in my life I love dearly who appear to hold political views that differ radically from mine. We’ve chosen not to discuss politics. I think this is because of our desire to maintain our connection and respect for one another, based on mutual love and caring.


I confess I spent the first week after Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States in mourning, deep despair, and bewilderment. I felt as if someone I loved had punched me in the chest. Many people I love, in fact, voted for him. They too were feeling despair: despair that I didn’t vote for him, and confusion about why I felt so devastated.

During that first week, I led several meditations on peace in different national and international venues. I offered formal and informal empathy sessions to many people, and listened to many more: hundreds of stories about enormous pain from families, spouses, and loved ones who had suddenly found themselves deeply divided.

It was exhausting — until I said “STOP,” and allowed myself the space to receive empathy, to offer it to myself, and to grieve and grieve and grieve my own grief.

And then I got clear (really clear!) that I wanted to focus on healing the gap between those of us who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, and those who did – and all our life experiences that led us to this point.

Thich Nhat Hahn says, We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us.  Then, we will suffer less. But everyone is suffering, and no one wants to listen.”

I am listening.


Years ago, I was driving down the road listening to NPR (National Public Radio) and they were reporting about a pediatrician who had been molesting children for over 30 years; at that time, they estimated that hundreds of children had been affected.

My heart sank and I started to cry – deep mourning for the gravity of this. All the children whose lives had been affected, and everyone who came in contact with them throughout their lifetime. And, the pediatrician – everyone he came in contact with within his medical practice and beyond.

The more I thought about the growing number of people who would have been knowingly or unknowingly affected, my grief grew and grew – and overwhelm and hopelessness began to take over. How could this possibly be healed?

And, then I had a thought…


Welcome to February, which for me is the month of Love. I am especially heartened or possibly humbled to remember to invoke Love as we begin the Trump administration here in the USA, when I experience how deeply divided we are as a nation and a world community, when I consider the trauma millions (yes millions) of refugees must have experienced when they fled the middle east in 2016 and continue to experience now, and so many other devastating issues that affect our world’s people.

It can be equally challenging for me to invoke Love in my own daily life when someone makes a racial or sexist comment, when I empathize with an African American friend who is terrified for her son’s life, or when our bikes are stolen out of our secured garage….


mary-mackenzie-150Happy Holidays!  This song / message from John Lennon and Yoko Ono was inspiring and lovely for me to receive.  I hope you enjoy it as well.  It reminds me that peace starts with me and it’s possible if I am committed to it in my life.  It takes true commitment, even a kind of fierceness, to live nonviolently and in such a way that values all needs.

On this day, I say I am committed for one more day to live my value of nonviolence.  I hope you’ll join me.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cJOm72QDDA&feature=related

Warmest Holiday wishes to you,

Mary


mary-mackenzie-150Neuroscientist Dr. Tania Singer was recently at Stanford University during the Dalai Lama’s visit.  She was interviewed about the definitions and differences between empathy, compassion and courage.  Her definitions are somewhat different than in a traditional NVC model and I enjoyed listening to her responses and pondering how her views matched or disagreed with mine.


mary-mackenzie-150I’m in Hawaii for three weeks offering a variety of trainings.  Nearly every day I express my gratitude that I get to do work that I love so much, in a place that is so beautiful to me, and to work with people whom I love.  Ahhh.

There have been many moments that I have thought, “remember this for the blog, Mary,” but have been distracted by all the beauty and joy and snorkeling and hiking with friends.  So, this morning, I will write about one thing and I hope to write again tomorrow.

I was in the second day of a 4-day retreat and I noticed that I felt uncomfortable with one of the participants and my inner chatter was saying, “He’s not satisfied with the workshop” and “He’s smirking” and “I actually have no idea what’s going on with him!”  I became aware of my jackal howling at the lunch break.

Does your jackal howl in your ear for a while before you notice her?  Sometimes, mine howls for a while before I become aware of her.  I believe this is because it is so familiar to have judgmental or critical thoughts.  NVC is teaching me how to become more aware of my jackal inner voice and to respond to her much more quickly, rather than be complacent in my judgments.


mary-mackenzie-150Yesterday I boarded a flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Oahu, Hawaii.  It was to be a 6.5 hour flight.  I had taken special care to reserve a window seat.  Upon boarding, I realized that I was seated in the middle seat, in the middle of the plane.  I was so frustrated and annoyed!   6.5 hours in the middle seat!

So, I was getting myself settled in my seat with an undercurrent of grumpy judgementalism.  The first thing that happened was a man in the row behind me offered to hold my tea while I got myself settled.  Next the man sitting to the left of me offered to hold my tea while I buckled my seatbelt.  Next, the man sitting to the right of me offered me the Phoenix newspaper that he had just finished.  This all transpired while I was grumbling internally, empathizing with myself, feeling worried about how uncomfortable I’m going to be for the next 6.5 hours, blaming airport employees for my miserable situation, etc.

Within 10 minutes, well before the plane started moving, I remembered that if I continue on this course, I will ensure that my flight is utterly miserable.  So, I took a deep breath, began empathizing with myself in earnest (not just enjoying the jackal show!), and began to shift my attitude.  Then, I napped for about 30 minutes because I realized (through self empathy) that the biggest obstacle for me was only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before.